The Washington Examiner's Byron York compares the media treatment two campaign books received in recent years, "Fortunate Son," by J.H. Hatfield and "The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House," by Edward Klein. During the 2000 presidential contest, Hatfield wrote that Bush had been arrested for cocaine possession and that George H.W. Bush had covered it up. The report, based on a "confidential source," received notice in The New York Times. Other media outlets, including the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Post, Los Angeles Times and others, covered Hatfield's charges. It was only when the Dallas Morning News reported that Hatfield was a felon on parole, convicted of a failed attempt to kill his employer with a car bomb, that St. Martin's Press withdrew the book. The author killed himself the next year.
Fast-forward to today. Klein's book reports that in the spring of 2008, in the middle of the presidential campaign and in the heat of the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright's incendiary sermons, a very close friend of Barack Obama's offered Wright a payoff if Wright would remain silent until after the November election. The source of the story is Jeremiah Wright himself. Wright told it, in his own words, in a nearly three-hour recorded interview with Klein. (The author gave the audio of the entire interview to me, as well as to other reporters who asked.) Unlike the media storm over "Fortunate Son," the Wright revelation has attracted very little comment in the press. The Associated Press and most of those outlets that talked about Bush and cocaine? They've had little or nothing to say about Jeremiah Wright and alleged payoffs. The New York Times has published just one piece about Klein's book, a scathing review that asserts that Klein -- a former editor of the New York Times Magazine -- is the real "amateur" in the story.
York notes that the Obama campaign says Klein's book has no credibility and that other critics say Klein's previous books have contained anonymous, sensational and unverified revelations. York points out that even if all of that is more than true, it doesn't change what Wright has said on the record. And he ends with an indictment of imbalance in the media:
And speaking of anonymous, sensational and unverified revelations, there was a time, not too long ago, when many journalists found them quite newsworthy.
The thing is that the media blackout of conservative books or books critical of liberals isn't helping their cause. I spoke to several people who bought Klein's book this weekend alone. It's getting out there even if the gatekeepers are trying to hide it from the public.